Chaos Under Heaven

Maulana appears undeterred despite the lukewarm participation of his allies in Azadi March, writes Murtaza Solangi

Chaos Under Heaven
Maulana Fazlur Rehman is keeping his promise of massive crowds at his Azadi March. As you read these words, he should be marching through the valley of Margallas. All efforts to dissuade him have failed. These efforts were overt, covert, diplomatic and even his own allies told him to postpone his tsunami till at least the end of the year.

In Sindh, the PPP government facilitated his march and second tier leaders of the party, including Raza Rabbani, Saeed Ghani and Nisar Khuhro, spoke to the charged crowd. Besides this, there was no massive participation of the ruling party in Sindh. The PML-N does not have much presence in the province but some token participation did take place with former Sindh governor Muhammad Zubair speaking in Karachi atop Maulana’s container.

As the procession entered south Punjab, there were no welcoming crowds of the PPP controlled by the former Punjab governor Makhdoom Ahmed Mehmood who was conspicuous by his absence. In Multan, lone rebels of the PML-N - Javed Hashmi and Mian Javed Latif - were there to greet the Maulana but the large crowds of both the PPP and the PML-N were missing. While Qasim Gilani, the son of Yousaf Raza Gilani, addressed the rally in Multan, his father, and former prime minister Yousaf Raza Gilani was also missing in action.

The same trend continued in Lahore. There was no major welcome by the PML-N that ruled Punjab for decades. No top leadership of the party welcomed the marching Maulana. The welcome by Shehbaz Sharif was over the phone lines and Maulana’s desire to call on the ailing party supremo Nawaz Sharif was not accepted. Qamar Zaman Kaira of the PPP did welcome the Maulana and made a brief speech on his container but that was about it. Maulana did mention his disappointment in his speech while leaving Lahore for Islamabad. “I do understand the compulsions of some of our friends but we appreciate their moral support. I can feel their presence here even if they are at home,” said the Maulana.
As the pressure mounts against Imran’s administration, new ideas of change are being floated in the Margalla valley, mostly alluding to an in-house change

When asked about the lacklustre and half-hearted presence of the party, a senior leader of the PML-N told this scribe, “We will fully participate in the Islamabad rally.” It was clear that both the PPP and the PML-N were still in Wait-and-See mode and did not want to rile up the powers-that-be at this moment.

“They will only jump on the bandwagon if it is clear to them that the administration is collapsing,” said a veteran analyst in Islamabad on the attitude of the two mainstream political parties.

The political circles closer to Mian Nawaz Sharif and Maryam Nawaz felt betrayed that despite the clear instructions, party leaders were quite lukewarm towards the Azadi March of Maulana Fazalur Rehman.

As the national capital begins to look like Container City, Imran Khan’s administration is still suffering from indecision and schizophrenia. All efforts to stop the Maulana have failed. Now the administration is digging in its heels. The cabinet is looking more like a house of cards. The infighting between cabinet members over the goofy PEMRA advice during the cabinet meeting was reported all over the networks without even a rebuttal. How will this administration, fast losing its place in the national polity, deal with hundreds of thousands of angry protesters?

On Tuesday, the Islamabad High Court granted bail for two months to ailing Nawaz Sharif when the NAB agreed to the bail granted him by the Supreme Court earlier. After the expiry of six weeks, the former prime minister had to return to jail again.

As the case proceeded in the Islamabad High Court, there were reportedly endless efforts to persuade the ailing former premier to go abroad with his daughter.

“Nawaz Sharif’s mother, sister, the sister of late Kulsoom Nawaz and many other family members were approached by the powerful quarters to persuade Nawaz Sharif to go abroad. His answer was firm ‘no’,” said a well-placed source close to the family.

“Nawaz Sharif has lost everything that he can possibly lose. He now has nothing to lose. He is not aspiring for a fourth term. His days in active politics have come and gone. He cannot afford to lose face and grace. He can’t go out of the country in a way that tarnishes his image and worse, affects the political future of Maryam Nawaz,” said a Lahore-based analyst who keeps an eye on the politics of Nawaz Sharif.

“Had the deal been clinched with Nawaz Sharif, the NAB would have supported unconditional bail for Nawaz Sharif and the court would have no option but to release him with no strings attached. The two months bail means Nawaz held his ground. No deal,” said a veteran journalist in Islamabad.

As the pressure mounts against Imran’s administration, new ideas of change are being floated in the Margalla valley, mostly alluding to an in-house change. “If push comes to shove, Imran can’t handle it. It is the matter of a single WhatsApp message. He only has 156 members of the PTI in the National Assembly while he needs 172 to retain his premiership. Just one message can deprive him from his allies like PML-Q, GDA, BAP, MQM and some independents. That opens the door for a new government without even dissolving the assembly,” said a veteran analyst.

“Who doesn’t want to become prime minister? From Shah Mehmood in his party to Fakhar Imam, Shehbaz Sharif all the way to Shahid Khaqan. There are tons of possibilities. The way Imran is losing his acceptability and fast becoming a liability, anything can happen anytime,” predicted a pundit in the national capital.

The only question that remains to be answered is what does Maulana get out of it? His goal is fresh polls to get a bigger share in KP and Balochistan. That is not possible till fresh polls. The only thing he has secured for sure is national political relevance. That he has achieved even without setting his foot in Islamabad.

The writer is a journalist based in Islamabad.

The writer is a journalist based in Islamabad